Tips from an Orange County English Tutor: 5 Ways to Avoid Plagiarism in Middle School


One of the most important things to learn is how to avoid accidentally plagiarizing somebody else’s work. Although college and college prep students will have achieved this skill, many middle school students plagiarize without even realizing what they’re doing. The consequences for plagiarizing are severe and can easily result in an F on said assignment or, in some cases, a student may have to do the assignment over again. There are few things middle school students can do to check and see if they have accidentally plagiarized – A great way to stop your child from plagiarizing is by getting a private Orange County English tutor to help them become more confident writers.

1. Did you rewrite something in your own words?

Many students will only copy down information from their textbook word for word. without a citation. This is plagiarism. It’s good for students to get in the habit of writing things in their words anyway as they will need to develop the skill for future assignments. More often than not, students will attempt a short cut by copying the sentence word for word and then changing an adjective or using a thesaurus. This is something that teachers will notice right away. Writing something in your words means fully understanding the information and restating it in a way that makes sense to you (READ: “Five Tips for Success in English Class”).

2. Did you fully understand the meaning of what you wrote?

One way students can check if they are truly using their words and thoughts is just to think if they actually understood the meaning of what they wrote. If a student understands the concept, they are more likely to use their own thought processes and vocabulary rather than rely solely on a textbook, which can lead to accidental plagiarism. Also, it’s good for students to know the information anyway since the primary goal of any assignment is to learn and understand.

3. Can you write the information down without looking at the textbook?

Many middle school students rely heavily on their textbook, which can become a crutch way too quickly. Students should be reading the textbook but then put it aside when they are writing their assignments. It’s important to look back to the textbook to fact check dates and names, but concepts should remain in the student’s mind. If the student cannot put the textbook aside, they are at a higher risk of copying information down and potentially plagiarizing.

4. Did you cite your sources?

Whether a student writes information down in their words or whether they are quoting directly from the text, it’s important to cite the source. Citing a source from the quotation is different from simply citing a source used as part of a paper. Each teacher will have a different preferred method of how to cite a source. It’s essential that students check with their teacher and refer to any handouts they may have received regarding the particular format of citation required for an assignment (READ: “5 Reasons Students Should Blog”).

5. Did you cite your sources properly?

It’s important for students to learn if they have cited their sources correctly. Although forgetting a comma or a semicolon doesn’t constitute plagiarism, it can result in a lower grade. Citing sources in a highly concrete and complicated manner can seem fruitless, thus, students will often skip over this important part of their research. However, citations are standardized so that any reader will be able to locate and verify the source. It takes time to learn how to cite properly so students should work with their tutor or teacher until they have the skill down 100%.

In short

Although learning to avoid plagiarism and cite sources can take a while, it’s important for students to develop this skill so they can become accomplished and credible writers. As students get older, the consequences for plagiarism become heavier, so it’s better for them to learn how to avoid it now rather than later.

Writing well has a lot to do with confidence, which is why it’s important to seek the help and guidance of a Orange County private English tutor early in your kid’s academic career. Call us today for more information.

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